Convicted felon Richard Merritt, a former Marietta attorney suspected of killing his mother, has been captured after almost eight months on the run.
“This is another great example of solid investigative work and law enforcement partners working together,” Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren told the MDJ Monday evening.
He said his office was notified Monday afternoon that Merritt was captured by U.S. Marshals in Nashville.
“Today’s arrest was a result of teamwork by U.S. Marshals Southeastern Regional Fugitive Task Force, which among its members includes investigators from Cobb and DeKalb County Sheriffs’ offices,” Warren said.
Authorities will be seeking Merritt’s extradition to Georgia, where a 15-year prison sentence in Cobb County awaits.
He is also wanted in DeKalb on murder charges in relation to his mother’s death.
Merritt, 44, was sentenced on Jan. 18 by Cobb Superior Court Judge Robert Flournoy to 30 years in prison, with 15 to serve, and ordered to pay restitution of almost half a million dollars to the clients he cheated out of legal settlements while their attorney.
Having practiced law since 2000, Merritt held jobs in the offices of the Fulton County solicitor and the Georgia attorney general before opening his own practice in Smyrna.
He was listed as the attorney of record for 27 criminal cases and 35 civil cases in Cobb Superior Court, representing clients suing insurance companies and defending accused thieves, drug users, child molesters and more.
Merritt’s former clients, whose cases he’d settled in secret to keep the money for himself, called him a con man, a scoundrel, a professional criminal and the archetype of a crooked attorney.
He pleaded guilty to 34 criminal charges including theft, elder exploitation and forgery, but was allowed a couple of weeks to get his affairs in order before reporting to the Cobb jail on Feb. 1.
Merritt removed his ankle monitor instead, and on Feb. 2, his 77-year-old mother Shirley Merritt was found stabbed and beaten to death inside her Stone Mountain home.
Merritt’s car was at the address and his mother’s Lexus was gone.
That’s when the national manhunt began, with Merritt formally charged with murder in DeKalb.
At the time Inspector Frank Lempka with the U.S. Marshals Service said the last confirmed sighting of Merritt was at a Cartersville gas station shortly after the murder is believed to have happened.